Korea diary 3: how I got my residence permit and phone subscription

Yesterday was a big day. Not only was it the day that it’s already been three weeks since I departed to this Asian country. It was a big day because I have finally obtained three things: one is kind of a necessity for living in the present day and two for really existing in the country I am currently living in.
Two weeks ago on Thursday February 2, when it was bloody dam -11 degrees celsius outside, I went to the Immigration Office in Seoul for the third day in a row. Although I dressed warm (a tanktop, a t-shirt, a pullover and a winter coat), I would still be freezing to death if I didn’t walk. For the third day in a row, you ask me? Why? Let me tell you the story. Especially in case you’d consider moving to Korea as well, it will be useful to read this post. Let’s start at the first day I went there.

Tuesday, January 31

The first day I got there, an unfriendly young woman working there told me that have to make a reservation online, and of course: that day was fully booked already. The expression on her face almost shouted that everyone was wasting her time and working on her nerves, and she was really not interested in having a friendly look on the frontside of her head.

Anyway: back home. Back to Wi-Fi. Because there’s no way of getting a phone subscription here without a so-called Alien Registration Card. But… wait. Did I come from a different planet? Silly name.

Anyway, I need that card. So I followed the instructions that the oh-so-friendly lady managed to give me. But I didn’t succeed. It took a while before I found out, but apparently you can only take care of government business (and in my case making an appointment with them) on a Windows machine with Internet Explorer. Not even on your smartphone or a computer with Google Chrome or so. And as I have a Mac, I was forced to find an internet café. Hell yeah!

Long story short: even in the internet café it took a while before I succeeded to make an appointment. The browser had to install some kind of plugin that was needed to make full use of the website. And the computers in the café were protected against installing such plugins. In the end the owner let me do it on his computer, behind the reception desk. We made it! Appointment was set for the next day, at 13:08 o’clock. Thanks to the PC café owner!

Pineapple boat
I barely have visual content to boost the story in this post. So here’s dinner that I cooked on day 1.

Wednesday, February 1

On the next day I was able to sleep in a little bit. The appointment was set at 13:08, so no rushing in the morning. Snoozing a little bit, coffee, breakfast; you probably know the deal.

When I made the appointment with Internet Explorer, a pop-up notification told me that the commonly required documents are a copy of your passport and a passport photo. I had both, so no problem. Never saw I stated anywhere that for specific visas you had to bring other specific documents.

So I went there, waited for my appointment and the lady (waaaay more friendly than the one I spoke to the day before) and she started processing all my details. At one point she asked: ‘Where’s your proof of residency?’
‘Uhm, well… It’s not here. I have an address here, but I don’t have the statement with me.’
Damn. I knew it. Although it didn’t go smooth the other day, I knew it still went too smooth. Luckily this lady was so kind to make everything as ready as possible. She only told me to bring in the document later on today or tomorrow. Lucky me didn’t have to make an appointment for that.

eggplant stack
Still not successfully requested my ARC, but at least I ate an eggplant stack with diced sweet potato and mozzarella pork in steak sauce for dinner. Which is nice.

Thursday, February 2

My alarm went off early. I wanted to go early to the Immigration Office to make sure it would not be to busy. And as the weather app told me, outside would feel like Siberia (-11 degrees celsius, as mentioned at the beginning of this post). I dressed warm enough, I thought.

Walking through the freezing cold I had no difficulties finding my way to the Immigration Office again. Third day in a row; going there almost became a habit.

The same lady that served me the day before was working again. I walked into her field of sight. In case she would be done with the woman she was speaking to, she would easily being able to see me. Even during the conversation with the woman I caught her eye. She gestured to me that I could sit down. And when the woman left, she called me. Took the thing that she needed all that remained was having my fingerprints taken at another guy’s desk. I would be able to pick it up in two weeks, on February 15!

Yes, they sell hotdogs on a stick here. One stand is close to my station. Very cheap, but very tasty. Ideal snack.

Wednesday, February 15

Yes! Finally the day has come that I could pick up my Alien Registration Card. Or in other words: residence permit. I went out early again, arrived there at 09:07 o’clock and walked back outside in five minutes. Not that I didn’t get my ARC, but just because it was only a pickup.

Ok. Off to the bank. In order to open a bank account, this card was needed. Just around the corner of my house there happens to be a Woori Bank branch. Obviously the most convenient to do it there, as it is located literally around the corner.

After a lot of paperwork, patience and waiting the deal was done and from now on, I have my own Korean bank account. The benefits of this card are endless. Discounts on cinema, Starbucks, convenience stores, etcetera. It only applies after using your card with specific amounts. And those are not impossible amounts, so that’s great. One other thing: you can use your bank card here to check in for public transportation. Excellent!

Alien registration card
Finally, I got my ARC!

After that, I treated myself a coffee and when the last drop had gone through my throat, I had one more thing to do: getting a Korean phone number.

Setting up a contract took a while as well, as no one in the phone shop was able to speak one full sentence of English. I can’t complain about that as I’m the foreigner here. But the guy (and later on his manager took over) really did their best. With the help of some translation apps we managed to finish it in a doable amount of time.

It was a day with a buttload of paperwork and waiting, but it was really rewarding. Finally I’m not limited anymore to Wi-Fi access when I want to ask something in a shop. The time of paying transaction fee for withdrawing money from my Dutch card is over as well. And last but not least: with my ARC, I can go job hunting. Yay!

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